Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Jail threat for donkey bloggers

Two bloggers from Azerbaijan are facing up to five years in jail after posting a video of a donkey giving a news conference on YouTube.

Shortly after the video was released, Andnan Hajizade and Emin Milli were held on hooliganism charges following a scuffle in a restaurant. Their lawyer says the arrests were politically motivated.

But authorities insist they are investigating a simple criminal case.

In the video, the donkey extols the benefits of living in Azerbaijan and praises the government for its positive attitude towards donkeys. The video was seen by many as a send-up of government news conferences, which critics say are often little more than propaganda events.

"This incident is definitely politically motivated," said the bloggers' lawyer, Isakhan Ashurov. My clients did not beat anybody, quite the opposite."

The Azerbaijani government denies that the bloggers' arrest was politically motivated.

"People are not arrested in Azerbaijan because of political activity," said Ali Hasnov, a senior adviser to President Ilham Aliyev, in a statement. There was a scuffle between some young people and some of them were injured. Law enforcement agencies are investigating the case and will give an impartial assessment," he added.

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